A wave of newbuilding deliveries is helping container ship operators manage the need for more vessels caused by the Red Sea crisis.

The threat of overcapacity looms large despite the requirement for extra boxships to maintain schedules, according to Alphaliner.

The first container vessels to be diverted around the Cape of Good Hope are returning back in Asia after substantial delays, the analyst noted.

The problem would have been worse were it not for the rush of newbuilding deliveries that is helping carriers adapt their schedules.

Between two and three extra container ships are required on each Asia to Europe loop to guarantee sailing schedules.

Some of that shortfall has been met by the first of the newbuilding deliveries.

New Year luck

Carriers were “lucky” to have the first of the diverted container ships fall in the traditionally slow period after Chinese New Year, when shipping lines tend to blank a number of sailings, Alphaliner said.

Their luck may run out, depending on how the crisis in the Red Sea pans out. Any solution in the short or middle term for the conflict “would immediately result in many ships becoming redundant”, it said.

“While some carriers are still looking for extra tonnage to fully staff Cape-routed services, the amount of new capacity to be delivered in 2024 and 2025 will exceed these needs,” it added.

Alphaliner forecasts delivery of 1.91m teu of neo-panamax and ultra-large container ship deliveries in 2024, followed by 1.43m teu next year.

The need for extra ships to circumnavigate Africa has left some carriers short of tonnage.

Members of the Ocean Alliance and THE Alliance found it difficult to find ships for Asia-Europe loops in January and February, as they did not have many newbuildings.

That contrasted with 2M partners MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company and AP Moller-Maersk.

The two carriers were better able to manage weekly Asia-Europe sailings, helped by the delivery of newbuildings such as the 16,592-teu Ane Maersk and the 16,464 MSC Marie (both built 2024).

None of the three alliances were able to offer an average of 8.5 departures per (weekly) loop, Alphaliner said.